(Topic ID: 20411)

How do you "learn" to play pinball?

By NJGecko

7 years ago

Topic Stats

  • 32 posts
  • 29 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 7 years ago by DarthXaos
  • Topic is favorited by 3 Pinsiders


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    #1 7 years ago

    Sorry if this is a silly question...
    How do you actually "learn" to play? I enjoy playing...it's a ton of fun, but for the most part, it's just a lot of reacting to where the ball goes. I've watched some of the PAPA videos and see these people plot out shots and they can pretty much place the ball where they want it to go...
    I just can't grasp how to even start to learn that. It's on a totally different level from where I am...

    Any advice?

    #2 7 years ago

    No advice here, sorry. I still suck at it.

    Seriously though, what I am working on now is trying to stop and capture the ball at the flipper. Amazing how much better the games go when you slow things down.

    #3 7 years ago

    Pinball 101 will teach you a lot of the tips and tricks. Like cradling, passing, catching and etc... just about everything you need to do to start getting control over the ball.

    I watch those a lot and then go over to a pin and fire off a 4 player game and practice. For bounce passes and etc. just play a couple games with one flipper and so what if you lose the ball a lot it's free play but letting the ball bounce pass will help with the tendency to flip when you shouldn't and then play a couple more games with the other flipper. That is just a couple small things I do when I practice. I go in playing some games knowing I don't care about the modes and objectives just play around post passing and alley passes and try to get multiball just so I can try newtons cradle and practice more cradle separation techniques.

    Good luck and have fun

    #4 7 years ago

    Practice, practice, practice .... and then practice some more.

    #5 7 years ago
    Quoted from gweempose:

    Practice, practice, practice .... and then practice some more.

    +1. I recommend practicing on a game that is fast. My skills have greatly improved since getting Rollergames. And if that doesn't work I have 1 word for you.... WIZMAN!

    #6 7 years ago

    Pinball 101 is great to learn all the techniques you may not know about. Wanting to get better is the first step. You have to have goals and really try to meet them. If you've been playing for a while, realize that some people are just wired to be great pinball players. The rest of us can also be great players, but it is going to take time, dedication, and years of practice. You still may suck after all that, but I'm sure your game will have gotten better. I remember when I got my first machine, I thought I would soon be a pinball wizard. I don't think I really improved my game for 3 years. Yes I put up a great game every now and then, but in general, a lot of luck was involved. I have been in the hobby for about 8 years, and only in the last 3 have my skills noticeably increased. Now, I am a fair player--better than any non-pinhead I know, but against a true player, It's like Luke Skywalker facing Darth Vader in the Cloud City.

    Catching the ball and controlling it is very important, but I've seen some very good players who don't control the ball at the flippers that well. What they do is make their shots!

    I'd love to hear about anyone's training regimen, or how much you play daily to practice for a tournament. So far nobody has really offered up anything like that.

    #7 7 years ago

    When I started I was not good at all, but after pinball 101 and reading strategy for the games I was playing I got much better I whoop all my non pinhead friends butts, still no high scores on games in wild yet.
    edit I forgot to write lots of practice

    Post edited by royce6135 : forgot practice makes for better practic

    #8 7 years ago

    I also say Pinball 101 but be warned...

    *********DO NOT buy it via YouTube!********

    It's not licensed for anything but PC play!

    That means you can't play it on your Xbox360 dashboard, nor your Android, iPad, iphone or shit else. I am in disbelief at how lame that is. Devices with YouTube apps or browsers connecting to YouTube still cannot play it!

    I think there is a download purchase specifically for the iPhone in the marketplace but you are stuck watching it on only our phone.

    So yeah, best way to improve is watch the DVD & buy a bunch of games

    Also read the rulesheets & walkthroughs. I read the BAJILLION page TSPP guide a few times & cannot express how great of a time investment that was.

    PinballNews Reviews + shot maps + walk through guides + Bowen vids + instruction cards & some beer = now you know what shots you can't make on demand

    #9 7 years ago
    Quoted from NJGecko:

    Sorry if this is a silly question...
    How do you actually "learn" to play? I enjoy playing...it's a ton of fun, but for the most part, it's just a lot of reacting to where the ball goes. I've watched some of the PAPA videos and see these people plot out shots and they can pretty much place the ball where they want it to go...
    I just can't grasp how to even start to learn that. It's on a totally different level from where I am...
    Any advice?

    I would start with Trapping and Bounce Passes. Trapping you probably already know, but the trick is to bring the ball to a complete stop, pick a shot and then aim for it. Most beginners will trap the ball but then take their next shot while the ball is still rolling around.

    Bounce passes slow the ball down, as well as sometimes set up for a trap.

    Some people can't help but flip in a bounce pass situation. If that's you, then play one-handed. It forces you to bounce pass.

    #10 7 years ago

    Learn the rule sets to learn how to stack modes for higher points.
    Learn which shots are dangerous, ie. which will probably result in a drain even if you make it. Don't go for these unless it is multiball.
    Learn the different ball control techniques.
    Practice. But don't just go play. Practice doing a particular technique, over and over. Try it on different machines because they all will play differently. Flipper rubber will also affect the techniques. Some brands/colors are more bouncy and have more drag on the ball than others.
    Practice nudging/shaking and tapping/slapping too. I am not as good at tapping as nudging.

    #11 7 years ago

    Watch Pinball 101 to get an idea of what you should be trying to do. The 'bounce pass' or 'chill maneuver' may be the most important thing you can master. It's not overly difficult, but it takes a lot of nerve and restraint. Whenever possible, play against better players and watch what they do. They will set a standard for you in your mind and give you something to work towards. You may find you actually see a decline in your game while you try to adjust your technique, but that's part of the process.


    #12 7 years ago

    you learn a lot just by watching papa's videos. those guys are the best, so learn with the best.
    then it is just like any other stuff.. you see how it is done, try to understand how to do it and then you go practice. .. and practice... and practice some more.
    if you know someone that plays well, watch his moves carefully and try to understand how and what it is being done. and try it. you should get there.. and when you do the scores start to rise

    some players control the ball and others just hit it when reach the flippers. it is so much easier to control the ball. when you can do that you are playing like a pro..

    #13 7 years ago

    First off, I'd say I am moderate. I am not winning tournaments or putting on exhibitions, but I am not placing last either. I'm sure everyone at EBP will tell you I actually suck. So don't take my advice...but do...because I wasted 15 minutes writing this. This is just what I've noticed analyzing the game:

    Play skill in this genre is made up of three components: ball control, rules knowledge, shot success rate.

    BALL CONTROL you can't just watch a DVD, walk away and master. The DVD helps for sure, but if you're a complete beginner you have to put in time on a machine you can play constantly to get the techniques down. If you're beyond the point of "just bat the ball away and keep it alive" with your ball control, you already know the importance of cradling and are ready to level up.

    When I was at that stage I practiced and learned post pass first. It taught me to not fear having the ball bouncing around near the flippers while getting a feel for legitimately controlling the ball. Legitimate ball control as in, I was purposely flipping to make the ball *do something I wanted it to do* and regain control.

    To make ball control even more difficult to learn, each major manufacturer has different feeling flippers. People can claim there are no differences, but at least take this one thing from my boring ass post, there are. You'll eventually find that you need to alter your techniques that worked well on B/W flippers for 90's Gottliebs...then modern Sterns...etc. Then there is rubber color and "freshness" altering how the ball reacts! Once you feel confident on one era/manufacturer, prepare to feel like you don't have a clue on another when you could swear "they all seemed the same" and you could "nail that post pass all day long on TAF but for some reason Tron isn't post pass friendly to me...it's the machine's fault I am sure!".

    RULES This one is short and sweet. You can have the best ball control in the world, but if you know absolutely nothing about how to build a scoring strategy...let alone just the old "what do I shoot next?"...you're screwed. PAPA blog will become your best friend for this issue.

    SHOT ACCURACY Probably my biggest problem area (besides tilting). You can have ball control and be an encyclopedia for pinball rules...but if you constantly brick your shots: you aren't going to win much of anything. I can't tell you how many times I've competed against someone, had ball control going my way, my strategy is set up so I need just that one easy shot to stack a bunch of crazy shit...and brick...

    ...regain control...
    ...regain control...
    ...regain control...
    ...regain control...
    ...regain control...
    ...regain control...and...TILT

    This one I have no idea how to fix outside of just playing a lot. Obviously every machine is going to have different shot positions on the flipper, but I just have no idea how to make my shot accuracy better. All I know is that it is pretty damned crucial to getting better.

    So the short answer to your question is: flail a lot.

    #14 7 years ago

    As mentioned, practice is most important. You'll never get better if you don't play regularly. I try to play at least a 1/2 hour every day either at home or on location. Even better than watching videos (2D) is regularly playing in tournaments and league (3D). When you watch a better player than you do the same move over and over (make it look easy) on a game right in front of you, and then it's your turn, you're gonna try that new move. Watching better players in person will motivate (and educate) you in a hurry.

    So practice and playing with players better than you are probably the two most important things. I see you're in NJ. The site linked below lists the Jersey Pinball Association league in your area. The link to the league page is bad, but I bet you could find a contact or location for them on google. If nothing else, email the IFPA folks and they'll put you in contact with them. Koi Morris is listed as president of the league. Koi is a great guy. Knowing Koi was affiliated with the league would be good enough for me to recommend them.

    I know they also have their share or tournaments in that area. Compete as a novice as long (and often) as you can, then move up to the big boys. Many tournaments are now being structured in a way to attract more novice players. It's a great time to be a novice competitive player.


    #15 7 years ago
    Quoted from Betelgeuse:

    Whenever possible, play against better players and watch what they do.


    I've learned some techniques by watching the better players that I never would have even thought of on my own. An example would be how the good players will nudge the machine sideways as the ball is coming around the orbit so that it misses the slings.

    #16 7 years ago

    Watch better players, like on Videos (ex 101), YouTube etc. But then go turn on the pinball machine and practice! I don't practice the crazy stuff like a "death save" because in most leagues and tournaments, its a BIG NO NO! But I'd say practice is key here. Just knowing you should be able to do it, is enough.


    #17 7 years ago

    Skills like the bounce pass are totally counter-intuitive. I've found the best way to learn them are to ignore the score, and focus on that ONE skill for 3-5 games. I was pretty shocked when I actually got a high score while practicing my bounce pass.

    The same advice applies to difficult shots on individual games. Keep practicing that one shot until it's committed to muscle memory. This is how I learned to nail the spinners reliably on CSI.

    #18 7 years ago

    Lots of good advice here, incl. the Pinball 101 plug. (I own this DVD too!)

    Many people tend to cite "ball control" as the #1 skill to develop, but I disagree. As someone else n oted above, ACCURACY is the #1 key skill. Think about it: if you can make every shot you aim at, you don't ever need to control/trap/nudge anything. Just aim for and make safe shots, and you will have a high-scoring, infinite game. But the real world doesn't work that way. Nevertheless, a very high accuracy on shots will increase score and reduce drains for anybody.

    #2 skill would be ball control. And the easiest control skill is, as mentioned above, the bounce pass. Why? Because you don't need to do anything! By NOT hitting a flipper button, the ball will often bounce softly to the other flipper where it can be cradled easily and safely. Othercontrol skills would be drop catches, flipper passes, sling stops, etc. All can be learned and improved with practice.

    #3 skill would be nudging. #4 skill is game-specific strategy (learning the rules and knowing what shots are safe and what you want to hit with any shot). Learning video modes, if present, is also part of strategy, s well as stacking of modes, how to build bigger jackpots, etc.

    For the OP, if pinball seems mostly a reaction to where the ball goes, then I suggest focusing on ball control first, so you can feel like you're playing the machine rather than letting the machine play you! After that, you can improve accuracy from a controlled ball catch. Remember, hitting the ball on the fly will shoot it in a different direction than shooting a trapped ball--a minor but important effect that needs to be learned to improve accuracy.

    #19 7 years ago
    Quoted from swampfire:

    Skills like the bounce pass are totally counter-intuitive. I've found the best way to learn them are to ignore the score, and focus on that ONE skill for 3-5 games.

    This is where I am. My scores are going down but my skills are going up. Once skill is directed towards the game rules you get big scores.

    #20 7 years ago

    Thanks for all of the great advice. I picked up Pinball 101 on iTunes so I can watch it on my iPad for $3.99.

    I watched a few minutes of it and then spent a little while trying to practice a bit of ball control. Frustrating, but at the end I did start to see some progress and didnt feel quite as inept...

    I know it's a long road ahead of me, but I think I may have a path to start looking down...

    Any more suggestions appreciated! Keep em coming

    #21 7 years ago

    Find a partner and take turns doing nothing but post passing. Play a whole game and whoever has the most wins. Play a game shooting nothing but one ramp or one target. Play for tap passes instead of score. Sometimes playing games with different goals in mind than overall score will freshen the experience and help you focus on improving a specific skill.

    Buy pinball 101 and e-mail those guys every day until they put out pinball 102.
    Watch the PAPA videos and listen and learn strategy.
    Go to tournaments and compete.

    #22 7 years ago

    Best advice I can give is to slow the ball down! people tend to think of pinball as this super fast game where you flail away at the ball but you need to trap that ball and let it stop. Take your time, and practice.

    #23 7 years ago

    I've watched Keith Elwin kick my @$$ once at WWF, and I've learned a lot from watching the pros play.

    “The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.”

    -Michael Jackson

    #24 7 years ago

    I take a different tact, but there is a reason why... okay, sorta long post coming I feel...

    When I got into playing, a big thing for me was that if you were good on pinball, you could win free games. For me, it was all about figuring out the shot that I could hit over and over again, until I could build up enough of a score to get past the replay and earn a free game. I played a LOT of route pinball, and I never really learned about wizard modes or whatever, I was all about figuring out what was the safest way to get past a point threshold so that I could get a free game.

    With that in mind, a few tips...

    First off, how 'good' you are is related to what you are trying to do. For instance, I've been playing the absolute hell out of my Iron Man lately. I've been going for high scores. To do that, I've been purposely stacking the modes together and trying to play them to earn Jericho and / or Do or Die shots. When I fail in this mission 95%+ of the time, I end up with really small scores.

    If I was playing a four player game, this would absolutely NOT be my strategy. Instead, I would go for either Bogey or Monger and try to get a good one of those, knowing that the perfect stack is an extremely difficult goal that my opponents really probably won't get either, and if they go for it I'll win 95%+ of the time.

    So anyway, the first thing that I suggest is to learn the ins and the outs of a machine's rules. If you have a machine at home, really try to learn your machine. Set yourself a goal - play through the modes, play through the multiball, etc - and see what makes the most sense for earning points.

    Along with this, I would suggest setting your machine so that it does not restart during games, and not restarting during games ever. If you have a bad first ball and you're in a four player game, you have to change your strategy to recover and still have a shot at winning, you don't get a do over.

    I've only been in one official tournament, which was actually for the launch of Iron Man, and in the finals for my first two balls, I flipped the ball a total of once. I somehow recovered on my third ball to win the novice division.

    Some other stuff...

    Figure out what shots are dangerous, and which are not. Weigh those risks and rewards in the game. I really like Viper Night Drivin', which has an incredibly easy center ramp... that is worth almost no points. So, if I'm really close to someone else in points, I shoot that thing 20 times or whatever. But, if I'm far away, I'm not going for that.

    Learn the backhand. It's far more important than post passing I think.

    Slow your game down. Think about your next shot. That doesn't mean catch the ball every time, but that isn't a bad place to start. My brother-in-law took that on for a while, just catching each ball that came down and then looking at what was flashing and shooting at that, and he instantly got WAY better.

    Learn to NOT flip. As long as the ball hits the flipper rubber, it will usually bounce to the other side so it can be caught, aimed and shot.

    I never post pass, because I screw it up probably 25% of the time, but I think I'm decent thanks to learning when not to flip and using the backhand to hit other things. If you can post pass, even better. I rarely see people post pass in tournaments, and I've hosted a ton of them at the Midwest Gaming Classic.

    Finally, set up your machines tough. Three balls, outlanes open, sensitive slingshots, random awards turned off whenever possible. You'll definitely get better.

    Last thing with this, don't make it so that you're not having fun playing. I've had someone suggest to me that I should take the glass off the machine, practice a shot, grab the ball, and then put it in the right place to practice the shot again. To me, that isn't pinball, that's work. And I most definitely do not want to 'work' when I play pinball. Whatever you decide, come up with something that you think is fun and play that way.

    Good luck

    #25 7 years ago

    Home game or on location game. First look up or get a manual or a copy. Read carefully about scoring and what completes things and starts modes etc.. Look at the shot map ad try to figure out flow. Watch videos or other people play and then pick one aspect at a time and practice practice practice.... Some people are better at controlling the ball and some suck at control but possibly are better at hitting the ball live (like baseball).

    Everyone has strength and weakness but no one can get a good score without knowing the rules or simply keeping the ball alive forever.

    #26 7 years ago
    Quoted from jonnyo:

    Most beginners will trap the ball but then take their next shot while the ball is still rolling around.

    I can only slightly disagree here. On a lot of games, aiming for a shot can be easier if the ball is still has a little momentum on it after a trap. I don't like always trapping a ball to a complete stop. just my 2cents.

    #27 7 years ago

    You want to get better? Come over and watch me play....... Then do the exact opposite. You can also follow the above advice that works best for you because they've all summed it up pretty well.

    #28 7 years ago

    I watched Pinball 101, but I tried releasing a wind-up toy car on Getaway and it hasn't increased my score

    #29 7 years ago
    Quoted from RawleyD:

    I can only slightly disagree here. On a lot of games, aiming for a shot can be easier if the ball is still has a little momentum on it after a trap. I don't like always trapping a ball to a complete stop. just my 2cents.

    Also, sometimes you *have* to hit the ball while moving, and some backhand shots can only be made with the ball approaching the flipper and an early flip. If you try to stop every ball, you limit your aiming/accuracy skills, and will also get into trouble frequently (flailing to save balls that aren't dead-stopped). Aiming is a bit different with moving and stationary balls, and both skills are important. Also, for the older crowd, it's a huge advantage on some EMs and SS games to hit the ball on the fly for backhands. And trapping can be nearly impossible on these games, which may have a lower slope, wider flipper gap, inlane drain gap, etc.

    #30 7 years ago
    Quoted from Twitch_Boy:

    I watched Pinball 101, but I tried releasing a wind-up toy car on Getaway and it hasn't increased my score

    Try using a red car.

    #31 7 years ago

    Take this with a grain of salt, b/c I am a rookie:

    Treat each new machine like a car. Every model and make is different from the other (even identical cars in some cases). So, get to know the machine; get to know how it plays and feels. That helps out a lot. Learning modes and how to enable multipliers, extra balls, multiball, etc. helps tremendously as well.

    #32 7 years ago

    I find I have a really hard time hitting "outer" shots from a dead stopped ball, i need to have the ball coming down an inlane to make, for example, the catapult on MM

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